Posted in Architecture, Photography, Religion, Travel, Ukrainian culture, Ukrainian history

Dormition Church of Lviv (церква Успіння Львіва)

I originally intended this post to be part of my 2022 April A to Z series on Ukrainian history and culture, but I stuffed it into the drafts folder because I couldn’t find enough information about the church’s history, artwork, and architecture for a substantial, detailed post. Yet again, I didn’t allow myself any time to work on a post about my radical rewrite of The Very Last, so here’s that bonus A to Z post.

New additions are in bold.

Copyright Konstantin Brizhnichenko

Throughout history, Lviv’s Dormition Church has had four incarnations. The first, probably constructed during the High Middle Ages, was burnt in 1340 when Polish feudal lords attacked the city. Church #2, built of bricks and first mentioned in 1421, was destroyed in 1527 when a great fire swept through Lviv. Peter the Italian, an architect from Lugano who became a citizen of Lviv, rebuilt the church from 1547–59. Alas, the third church fell victim to another fire in 1571.

The Chapel of the Three Saints was built nearby from 1578–91, and the Italian architect Pietro of Barbona rebuilt the Kornyakt Tower, which had collapsed in 1570. Both of these structures were joined by a fourth church which was constructed from 1591–1629 by Paolo Dominici Romanus, Wojciech Kapinos, and Ambrosiy Prykhylnyy. The ikons were painted by Mykola Petrakhnovych-Morakhovskyy and Fedir Senkovych.

Copyright xiquinhosilva

Many people financed the construction, primarily Moldovan rulers (both male and female). It was originally built of brick, but midway through construction of the walls, the Assumption Brotherhood replaced it with hewn stone. The church was consecrated on 26 January 1631 by Lviv Bishop Yeremiya Tissarovskyy and Kyiv Archimandrite Petro Mohyla.

On 3 January 1584, prior to the start of construction on the fourth church, the Catholic Archbishop of Lviv, Jan Dymitr Solikowski, attacked the existing church. He expelled congregants, scorned the priest and ignored his authority, and sealed the church.

And what was the unspeakable crime committed by the Orthodox faithful? Not adopting the Gregorian calendar and continuing to use the Julian calendar, which was ten days behind by the 16th century, on account of a never-corrected error from the Council of Nicaea.

This intolerant archbishop also forbade Ukrainians from ringing church bells on their own holiday dates and attacked the Church of the Epiphany that same year of 1584.

Copyright xiquinhosilva

In the 18th century, noblewoman Feodosiya Strilbytska, wife of parish priest Oleksiy Strilbytskyy, donated 6,000 złotych to the church. Out of gratitude, a painting of her was put on display. It’s now in the Lviv National Gallery of Arts.

Yet another fire damaged the church in 1779, and it was rebuilt in 1796 with a few changes. Perhaps surprisingly, given the era, it was beautified with stained glass windows designed by Petro Ivanovych Kholodnyy in 1926–27. Though Soviet rule was atheist, Stalin hadn’t yet risen to full, unquestioned power and begun cracking down on the use of non-Russian national languages and cultures. During the 1920s, national expression flourished in republics which had long been under the heel of enforced Russification.

Copyright Швітланьо (Shvitlano)

Copyright Aeou

Lviv artists Kostyantyn and Yakiv Kulchytskyy carved the coats of arms of donors Simeon and Iyeremiya Mohyla above the northern and southern doors.

Some of the ikons in the ikonostasis have been with the church since the fourth iteration opened in the 1630s. The most valuable are from the Passion Cycle, made by Fedir Senkovych and Mykola Petrakhnovych-Morakhovskyy.

Copyright Alexander Skrypnyk

The church was restored and repaired from 1965–73.

The Lviv Assumption Brotherhood, the non-clerical Ukrainian Orthodoxy fraternity who founded the church, remains active to this day. Members patronize the Sunday school, care for the building’s upkeep, and organize the cultural and spiritual life of the church.

Copyright Kugel at WikiCommons

Copyright Oleksandr Kaktus

On 29 November 1989, the church came under jurisdiction of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The Sunday school began in 2008, with three age groups, and a children’s choir was formed in 2012.

Copyright Ivan Sedlovskyi

Copyright Ivan Sedlovskyi

Posted in Photography, Travel, Ukrainian culture, Ukrainian history

Yalta, Ukraine (Ялта, Україна)

Yalta, a resort city in the south Crimea, is located within a strip of mountains known as the Yalta Amphitheatre on account of its curved shape. Archaeological evidence shows it was first settled by the Taurians during the Bronze Age.

The Greeks who first lived there called the city Yalita, derived from gialos (pronounced yalos) (beach, seashore). According to legend, they had sailed a long time in search of a shore, and were so grateful to see land again they named their settlement after their landing-place. Over the ensuing centuries, it was also variously known as Galita, Jalita, Kaulita, Gealita, and Etalita.

Copyright Крылов Иван (Krylov Ivan)

In the second half of the 13th century, Venetian merchants settled in this successful port and fishing settlement. They were forced out by the Genoese in the 14th century, and Yalita became one of Genoa’s fortified trading colonies on the Crimean coast. The ruins of a fortress from the 12th to 15th centuries have been found by the Uchan-Su waterfall.

In the late Middle Ages, Yalita was part of the small Theodoro principality in the southern Crimea, the last gasp of the Byzantine Empire. Most of its inhabitants at this time were Armenians, Greeks, Crimean Goths, Circassians, and a few other ethnic groups.

St. Hripsime Armenian Church, Copyright Demmarcos

In 1475, the Ottomans captured the Crimean peninsula from Genoa and annexed it to their Crimean Khanate with much looting, killing, and burning. Yalita became part of the Mangup Kadylyk district. Though this khanate was ruled by Tatars and thus semi-independent, Yalita itself was under direct Ottoman rule.

Yalita was further destroyed by an earthquake in the late 15th century. Seventy years later, the area was repopulated by Armenians and Greeks. Around this time, the modern name Yalta arose.

There was a large slave market nearby, trading in Ukrainians and Russians captured from regular raids.

Emir Palace, Copyright Neovitaha777

In 1778, the Crimean Greeks and other Christians were forced to move to Mariupol on orders of the Russian government, and established a nearby village also called Yalta. When Russia annexed the Crimea in 1783, the Muslim population left en masse too. Barely anyone lived in Yalta by the time the Russo–Turkish War broke out in 1787. The once-flourishing city had become a tiny fishing village.

Aleksandr Nevskiy Cathedral, Copyright Demmarcos

In 1823, Count Mikhail Semyonovich Vorontsov, governor-general of the Novorossiysk Territory which included Yalta, distributed 200 acres of land for the purposes of rebuilding the area and planting vineyards and orchards. Yalta received city status in 1838, though it only had one street, 130 residents, and 30 courtyards.

It was very difficult to reach Yalta until 1837, when a gravel road was built. In 1848, a proper road to Sevastopol was built. Yalta didn’t even have a seaport anymore, and the pier built in the late 1830s was destroyed by a storm.

Yalta Lighthouse, Copyright Vadim Indeikin

During the Crimean War of 1853–56, local nobility donated 1,100 rubles to the soldiers, the sick, and the wounded. They also helped with food, clothing, wound dressings, and vehicles. Local residents were eager to assist the Russian forces in any way they could, since they were trying to oust the Ottomans.

After the war, only 36 houses were suit for living or accommodating institutions. The rest of the city fell into total disrepair yet again, though Yalta was quickly rebuilt and became a very popular resort city for the élites. Its lovely climate also made it a prime location for health spas.

Immaculate Conception Church, Copyright Карлова Юлия (Karlova Yuliya)

Chapel of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, Copyright Наталья Филатова (Natalya Filatova)

Tsar Aleksandr III ordered the construction of a new palace, Massandra, nearby. It was completed in 1889. Another nearby palace, Livadiya, was greatly expanded by his inept son Nicholas II. Many other nobles, extended members of the Imperial Family, and rich people also built grand estates in the vicinity.

Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy and Anton Pavlovich Chekhov spent many summers in Yalta. Chekhov built the White Dacha in 1898 and lived there until 1902. His story “Lady with Lapdog” is set in Yalta. Today the dacha is a house museum.

White Dacha, Copyright Olga-lyo

Lutheran Church of St. Mary, Copyright Андрей Романенко (Andrey Romanenko)

Yalta was enhanced by the construction of a new pier (completed in 1903), a lighthouse, a renovated embankment, sewers, and a new water supply system. Schools also arrived in Yalta, and industry flourished. However, there was only a small hospital.

St. Hripsime Armenian Church, Copyright V chekhov

St. Hripsime Armenian Church, Copyright Кертог (Kertog)

St. Hripsime Armenian Church interior, Copyright Ulyasik777

Yalta suffered greatly during the Red Terror of the Russian Civil War (1917–21), when many White Russians fled to the Crimea to wait for evacuation ships. The city was renamed Krasnoarmeysk in 1921, but the old name was restored a year later.

Though life was difficult after so many years of war, famine, hyperinflation, poverty, and disease, Soviet authorities sent vast amounts of food (even chocolate and caviar!) to Yalta sanitaria. By the early 1940s, there were 108 health spas where 120,000 people received treatment.

St. John Chrysostom Church, Copyright Vimoculars

Copyright Валерий Дед (Valeriy Ded)

Yalta was occupied by the Germans during WWII, and the entire Jewish community of 4,500 were murdered near Massandra in late 1941. Thousands of other residents were also tortured and shot.

In February 1945, Livadiya Palace was the site of a conference regarding the postwar reorganization of Europe.

Copyright Vadim Indeikin

Copyright Vadim Indeikin

Yalta was rebuilt after the war, and remains a popular resort and beach city today.

Glade of Fairy Tales, Copyright Andrew Butko

Posted in Photography, Travel, Ukrainian culture, Ukrainian history

National Academy of Visual Arts and Architecture (Національна академія образотворчого мистецтва і архітектури)

Copyright Turzh

The National Academy of Visual Arts and Architecture in Kyiv, founded as the Ukrainian Academy of Arts, had its grand opening on 22 November/5 December 1917, and was officially established on 5/18 December 1917. It was created, financially supported, and run by many prominent Ukrainian artists, a few scientists, and one historian. The first generation of professors were among the finest artists working in Ukraine at that time.

In 1922, the school was forcibly renamed the Kyiv Institute of Plastic Arts. Two years later, it merged with the Kyiv Architectural Institute and was renamed again, as the Kyiv Art Institute. Another new name followed in 1930, the Kyiv Institute of Proletarian Art Culture.

A fifth new name was bestowed in 1934, the All-Ukrainian Art Institute. This name stuck until 1992, when it became the Ukrainian Academy of Arts. Its seventh name, Academy of Visual Arts and Architecture, came in 1998. In 2000, the school assumed its present name.

The academy’s founders on opening day

Classes were first held in the former Kyiv Pedagogical Museum on 57 Volodymyrska Street, next door to the Yellow Building of St. Vladimir University (now Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv). Today this building is known as the Teacher’s House and is part of a reborn Pedagogical Museum.

Not long after the academy’s founding, classes were moved to a former trade school. During this time, in February 1919, it gained research institute status, but not for long. Kyiv changed hands between the Reds and Whites very frequently during this period, and when the Whites retook the city, the academy lost its state funding. The building was also taken away from them, and all its belongings were tossed into the attic.

Classes relocated to two apartments on 11 St. George’s Lane.

The academy’s original building

In December 1920, when Soviet rule was established once more, the academy moved to the former Noble Assembly. As aforementioned, it went through several name changes over the next few years. The academy also relocated to the former Kyiv Theological Seminary at 20 Voznesenskyy Descent. This street was variously called Smirnov Street, Smirnov Descent, Smirnov-Lastochin Descent, and Smirnov-Lastochin Street from the late 1920s until 2015, when the historic name was restored.

During the tumultuous first decade of its existence, the academy’s departments expanded beyond the traditional fine arts offerings of paintings, sculpture, drawing, and architecture to include such fields as ceramics, art politics, film, and photography. The classes and concentrations became even more modern and diverse in the early 1930s; e.g., art and propaganda, sculptural decoration of Socialist cities, decoration of proletarian life, Communist art education.

As the decade progressed, the academy began less ideological and gradually returned to a more academic teaching of art. After WWII, many new departments were created—graphic design, poster art, theatrical art, scenography, art technology, art theory, art history, art conservation and restoration.

Copyright Половко Сергей Николаевич (Polovko Sergey Nikolayevich)

The academy has its own coat of arms, a crimson Baroque shield with an image of Sirin, a bird with a female head from Slavic folklore. Sirin is indestructible, has the gift of prophecy, and is said to be able to see into the most secretive corners of the universe. On the shield, she appears in gold, representing greatness and nobility. Above is the Sun, a symbol of skill and knowledge.

The shield is bordered by a green wreath of oak and bay leaves wrapped in a ribbon with the inscription “Ukrainian Academy of Arts.” The green of the wreath represents wealth, life, and indestructibility. The front of the ribbon is white, and the reverse is blue.

The coat of arms was designed in 1997 by graduate Oleksiy Viktorovych Karpenko (1964–2020), a graphic artist.

Monument to Repressed Artists, Copyright Kiyanka

Over the years, a number of sculptures of famous Ukrainian writers and artists have been added to the grounds, along with a memorial to students and professors killed during WWII, a memorial plaque of the founders, and the above-pictured Monument to Repressed Artists.

During its 100+ years of existence, the academy has produced over 7,000 acclaimed artists and more than earned its reputation as Ukraine’s pre-eminent institute for fine arts and architecture education.

Posted in Photography, Travel, Ukrainian culture, Ukrainian history

Lviv, Ukraine (Львів, Україна)

Copyright Jorge Láscar

Lviv, the largest city in Western Ukraine, was named for King Lev I of Galicia–Volhynia, also Grand Prince of Kyiv (ca. 1228–1301). The city was known as Lvihorod (Lev’s City) in Ancient Ruthenian. Well-known other names include Lemberg (German and Yiddish), L’vov (Russian), and Lwów (Polish).

The first inhabitants were White Croats who arrived in the fifth century of the Common Era. Several other Slavic tribes moved in and fought for control during the next few centuries. The battle for ownership was settled in 981, when Grand Prince Vladimir the Great annexed the area to Kyivan Rus and built a castle.

When Galicia was created in 1084, the settlements which became the nucleus of Lviv were included in the territory.

Copyright Lestat (Jan Mehlich)

The city was officially founded in 1256. According to tradition, its founder was King Daniel of Galicia, who named it after his son Lev, but other chronicles claim King Lev himself was the founder.  Still other sources cite it as a joint effort.

In 1259 or 1261, under threat of Tatar invasion, Daniel and Lev were forced to destroy the wooden castle on Castle Mountain. Galicia then became a vassal of the Golden Horde. Because the ancient capital of Halych had been destroyed by Mongols in 1241, commingled with a growing Polish threat, Lev moved the capital of Galicia–Volhynia to Lviv in 1272.

The city quickly developed after this.

Dominican Church, Copyright Maksym Kozlenko

Dominican Church interior, Copyright Robin Schuil

Lviv soon attracted many merchants from Armenia and the German lands, and gained even more population when a lot of Poles immigrated from Kraków to escape famine.

In 1340, Lviv became part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. That same year, King Casimir III of Poland invaded and burnt the new castle. Dmytro Dedko, Lord of Ruthenia, repulsed the invasion, but after his 1349 death, Casimir returned and claimed Lviv as his own.

As part of the Kingdom of Poland, the Ukrainian population were subject to constant pressure to convert to Catholicism and adopt Polish language and customs.

26-28 Prospekt Shevchenka, Copyright Aeou

Lviv received Magdeburg rights in 1365, providing the city with some internal autonomy. In 1387, Galicia–Volhynia was briefly occupied by Hungary, but after Queen Jadwiga of Poland invaded, the area was annexed to the Polish Crown.

By 1630, Lviv had a population of 25,000–30,000. Merchants and artisans from all over Europe flocked to the thriving city.

House of Scientists

In the mid-17th century, the Ukrainian lands were beset by a long period of constant uprisings and wars against the various foreign occupiers. Most of these uprising were led by Cossacks, but there were also several invasions by other countries.

Sweden invaded Poland in 1655 and succeeded in capturing most of the kingdom, and laid Lviv to siege. However, they were forced to retreat before they could capture the city.

Ottomans and Tatars attacked in 1672 and 1675, and there was also an invasion from Transylvania. Then Sweden attacked again in 1704, captured Lviv, and pillaged the city.

Church of the Dormition, Copyright Kugel

All Saints Church in the convent of Benedictines, Copyright Neovitaha777

After the First Partition of Poland in 1772, Lviv was annexed to the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria and officially named Lemberg. Under Habsburg rule, cultural life and higher education thrived for the next few decades, and the population increased.

Ukrainians, Ruthenians, and Poles were all swept up in the revolutionary nationalist fervor sweeping Europe in 1848, which greatly alarmed the Austrian authorities. Among other draconian, cruel measures carried out, all demonstrations were put down, streets were barricaded, the town hall was set on fire, houses were searched, the city centre was bombarded, and martial law was declared.

Black House, Copyright Aeou

Black House closeup, Copyright Maksym Kozlenko

With the Austro–Hungarian Compromise of 1867, the Habsburgs agreed to split their empire with the Kingdom of Hungary, ending the 18-year military dictatorship and absolute rule following the 1848 revolution. Lviv became the capital of Galicia and began rapidly developing under Polish nobles’ rule.

Along with much new construction came a much-needed sewer system, reinforced concrete, a railway, both horse-drawn and electric trams, surgical innovations, new technology, a theatre and opera house, and water mains. Legal emancipation was also granted to the Jewish community in 1870.

Lviv was a very important centre of the Ukrainian national revival.

Church of the Ascension, Copyright Neovitaha777

Kiselka family mausoleum in Lychakiv Cemetery, Copyright Aeou

During WWI, Lviv was initially captured by the Russians, but retaken by Austria–Hungary a year later. After the war, Lviv became the capital of the short-lived West Ukrainian People’s Republic. During this time, the Polish–Ukrainian War raged, as each ethnic group fought for control. When the Polish majority captured Lviv in November 1918, they looted and burnt the Jewish and Ukrainian quarters (including a pogrom), shut down all Ukrainian cultural institutes and societies, arrested and fired Ukrainians, and forced Ukrainians to work on Greek Catholic religious holidays.

St. John Chrysostom Church, Copyright Aeou

Sts. Cosmas and Damian Church, Copyright Крістіна Федорович

In July 1919, Lviv became part of Poland. When the new borders were finalized in 1923, 40,000 Ukrainians protested.

As Lwów, the city was a major centre of culture, science, and education in Poland, second only to Warsaw. It earned the nickname Little Paris. Though Ukrainians were only 15% of the population and faced a lot of discrimination, they nevertheless cultivated a great cultural and national renaissance during the interwar years.

Citadel, Copyright Сергій Криниця (Haidamac) (Serhiy Krynytsya)

Powder Tower, Copyright Prymasal

Lviv was occupied by the USSR from 1939–41, a period of repression and mass deportations to Siberia. The Nazis took control on 30 June 1941. Many Ukrainians welcomed them as liberators, but soon realized their new occupiers were just as bad as the Soviets.

Lviv’s Jewish community, which was the third-largest in Europe and increased in size due to war refugees, lost thousands of people in pogroms during the early days of the Nazi occupation. The survivors were put into a ghetto and later deported to Bełżec or Janowska. Only a few hundred remained by the time the Soviets liberated the city.

Jad Charuzim Society and Synagogue, Copyright Demmarcos

Jakob Glanzer Shul, Copyright Aeou

Remains of the Golden Rose Synagogue, Copyright Aeou

After the war, Lviv became part of Soviet Ukraine. Due to population transfer, the city quickly gained a Ukrainian majority.

Today the city is one of Ukraine’s most important cultural, educational, political, and economic centres, and is renowned for its beautiful architecture.

Church of St. George, Copyright Demmarcos

Posted in Judaism, Photography, Religion, Travel, Ukrainian culture, Ukrainian history

Jewish Ukraine (Єврейська Україна)

Great Choral Synagogue of Kyiv, Copyright Nick Grapsy

There has been a Jewish community in Ukraine since ancient times, starting with people from Hellenized Asia Minor and the Bosporus. Archaeological excavations show evidence dating back to at least the fourth century BCE. Many were traders.

During the Kyivan Rus era (879–1240), communities developed in Kyiv, the Crimea, and the Ukrainian area of the Caucasus. More people arrived as refugees from murderous Crusaders in other parts of Europe. A community in Galicia, in western Ukraine, was first mentioned in 1030.

Because antisemitism is the world’s oldest hatred, there were several violent pogroms in the 12th century. Reportedly, we were kicked out of Kyiv during the reign of Grand Prince Vladimir II, though no documentary evidence survives.

Former Karaite synagogue in Kyiv, Copyright Posterrr

Former synagogue of Kamyanets-Podilskyy, Copyright Neovitaha777

Due to antisemitism, there were many restrictions on employment, residence, finances, housing, land ownership, movement, etc. Trade, handicrafts, and usury were among the few jobs open to us.

The Jewish Ukrainian community suffered equally alongside Christian Ukrainians during the endless reign of terror by the Crimean Tatars. Many were sold into slavery.

Though antisemitism was unfortunately unavoidable, the areas of Ukraine controlled by the Kingdom of Poland, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth grew to be one of the world’s largest, most vibrant Jewish communities.

Former synagogue of Vinnytsya, Copyright ЯдвигаВереск (Yadvyha Veresk)

Great Synagogue of Lutsk, Copyright Robert Niedźwiedzki

By the time of the Khmelnytskyy Uprising began in 1648, there were over 50,000 Jews in Ukraine. Though the Cossacks first and foremost wanted to liberate their land from foreign rulers (Tatars, Poles, Lithuanians), they also went on antisemitic rampages during these uprisings. Tens of thousands of Jews, possibly up to 100,000, were murdered, and 300 communities were destroyed.

To avoid attracting antisemitic attention, public merrymaking was banned, and stories about pogroms swept through Europe and created a climate of fear. This gave rise to the Messianic cult of Shabatai Tzvi, and an increased interest in mysticism.

Former synagogue of Hrymayliv, Copyright Влад Гуменюк (Vlad Humenyuk)

The 1649 Treaty of Zboriv forbade Jews to live in Cossack-controlled areas. These cruel restrictions were later upheld by Khmelnytskyy’s son Yuriy and in the first Cossack constitution of 1710.

More pogroms followed during the many other Cossack uprisings of the 17th and 18th centuries. Though most Ukrainian Christians have always viewed Cossacks as great national heroes, the Jewish community feels much differently about them.

Yegiye Kapay Synagogue in Yevpatoriya, Copyright Eugenmakh

Merchant Synagogue in Yevpatoriya, Copyright Mitte27

The Second and Third Partitions of Poland in 1793 and 1795 brought a large number of Jews into the Russian Empire. Because she didn’t want us living in her empire, Catherine the Great established the Pale of Settlement, which included all of Ukraine.

Due to many antisemitic restrictions, most people in the Pale were poor, and they were subjected to constant pogroms, esp. after Tsar Aleksandr III came to the throne in 1881. Only conversion to Russian Orthodoxy would end this mistreatment. As a result, a lot of people immigrated to the U.S., pre-State Israel, Canada, and Western Europe.

Entrance gate to former Karaite synagogues in Yevpatoriya, Copyright A.Savin (WikiCommons)

Another unending anguish was, under Tsar Nicholas I, compulsory military service. Many boys were brutally kidnapped, forced to serve in the army for over 20 years, force-converted, made to eat unkosher food, and forbidden contact with their families.

Despite this difficult life, robust social welfare and educational systems arose. Chasidic life also flourished, with many dynasties all across Ukraine.

Tempel Synagogue of Ivano-Frankivsk, Copyright Folkerman

Former Great Synagogue of Sharhorod, Copyright Михайло Потупчик (Mykhaylo Potupchyk)

Pogroms continued under the rule of the inept Nicholas II, in cities including Kishinev (1903 and 1905), Kyiv (1905), and Odesa (1905). These orgies of murder, violence, and rape were led by the Russian ultranationalist Black Hundreds movement. In October 1905 alone, 690 pogroms were carried out.

There were also blood libel cases, most famously the Menahem Mendel Beilis case of 1911–13. Miraculously, Mr. Beilis was acquitted.

Meanwhile, the Jewish community of Galicia, part of Austria–Hungary, fared much more happily during the same period. Though antisemitism still existed, they had legal emancipation and weren’t forced to live in poverty in isolated towns.

Jewish cemetery and funeral chapel in Chernivtsi, Copyright Alfred Löhr

During the Russian Civil War of 1917–21 and its spinoff wars, up to 250,000 Jews in the Russian Empire were murdered, including at least 100,000 in Ukraine. Most of these pogroms were carried out by the radical Directorate, whose ranks included the infamous Symon Petlyura (another historical figure regarded much differently by Jewish and Christian Ukrainians). Many miscellaneous bands also went on violent sprees, as well as the White Army and Red Army.

A different kind of oppression arose during the Soviet era, as all religion was outlawed, and even secular Jewish culture was only allowed for tokenistic reasons and in very limited amounts. Hundreds of thousands of people immigrated to Poland in 1921.

Mikvah of Mikolayiv, Copyright LXNDR

Ukraine lost 70% of her Jewish population, up to 1.6 million people, during the Shoah. Most were murdered by Einsatzgruppen, mobile killing squads, and never saw the inside of a camp. As in all Nazi-occupied nations, there were local collaborators (like the infamous John Demjanjuk). Some were motivated by antisemitism, while others were coerced, just wanted money to feed their families, or saw the Nazis as liberators after living under Soviet rule for so long.

However, the overwhelming majority of Ukrainians (4.5 million) fought against the Nazis, in both the Red Army and as partisans, and as of 1 January 2021, Yad Vashem has recognized 2,673 Ukrainians as Righteous Among the Nations. Ukraine is #4 among most-represented countries.

Memorial park in Khmilnyk, Copyright Posterrr

After WWII, border changes added Galicia and Carpathian Rus to Ukraine’s territory. In 1959, the Jewish population was 840,000, down from 2.7 million in 1941. The population steadily shrank during the Cold War, coupled with continued religious persecution.

Today there are an estimated 200,000 Jews in Ukraine, and centuries of difficult interfaith relations have finally begun to improve. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, Jewish life has undergone a huge renaissance in Ukraine. The country also has a Jewish president who was elected with 73% of the vote and now has over 90% approval ratings.